But there have been many times in my life that I thought that I should be, or even thought that I was. The silly version of this that I like to imagine saying to someone is: “I’m not a perfect human, but I do play one on tv.” Years ago, I remember television spots where actors that portray certain occupations on shows, say a disclaimer of how they are not REALLY a doctor, lawyer, etc., but they play one on television.
For years, I played the perfect role. I would aspire to do everything just right. If I made a mistake, I would immediately try to resolve it, or at least, obsess about resolving it. I wanted to be the perfect partner, parent, worker, daughter, sibling and friend. Nothing short of perfection would be okay with me.
When I would fall short in my own mind, and not be as perfect as I believed I should be, I would fill myself up with guilt. Guilt was not just some passive result that happened to me, although I would have defined it that way years ago. Guilt was something that I intentionally and methodically would pile upon myself, when I didn’t think that I measured up. When I made a mistake. When I fell short of the expectation that I had of myself, and that I believed others had of me.
The other way that I would attempt to emulate perfection, is by believing that I was perfect, in comparison to everyone else. Gross, but true. I would compare myself to others around me, and feel like such a model human being because I was: sober, skinny, educated, partnered, or healthy. I would use this as a way to hold myself in a superior position to others around me, even with those that I had deep love and respect for.
The results of seeking a life of perfection were all disastrous. For one, I would feel immense guilt, which looked to me like the ultimate self deprecation. I would tell myself what a jerk I was, how insensitive and lame I was. I would take a big opportunity to judge myself for being a failure in my own eyes.
Another result was my desire to judge all of the people around me. When I would make myself perfect, and others around me imperfect, I gave myself permission to judge everyone around me. If I saw myself as different from others around me, I thought that meant I could put myself at the top of the heap.
The biggest result and impact of my quest for perfection, was that it completely disconnected me from those around me, and from deepening my relationships with them. Although I did not see that result at the time, I have come to understand that my deepest fear all of those years was related to connecting more deeply with my loved ones. As long as I could see myself as differently from them, I could stay separated and not have to be vulnerable.
Today, I love my imperfect self. I see how when I shine how beautifully unique and human I am, I get to really connect with my world, and the people in it. I find the commonality among us as human beings, rather than how different I am from everyone.
In embracing my imperfect nature, I have truly set myself free.